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Jain Prakrit is a term loosely used for the language of the Jain Agamas (canonical texts). The books of Jainism were written in the popular vernacular dialects (as opposed to Sanskrit which was the classical standard of Brahmanism), and therefore encompass a number of related dialects. Chief among these is Ardha Magadhi ("Half Magadhi"), which due to its extensive use has also come to be identified as the definitive form of Prakrit. Other dialects include versions of Maharashtri and Sauraseni.
Pali and Ardha-Magadhi
The most archaic of the Middle Indo-Aryan languages are the inscriptional Aśokan Prakrit on the one hand and Pāli and Ardhamāgadhī on the other, both literary languages. The Indo-Aryan languages are commonly assigned to three major groups - Old, Middle and New Indo-Aryan, a linguistic and not strictly chronological classification. The Middle Indo-Aryan languages are younger than Rigvedic Sanskrit, which is also closest to the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language, but were contemporaneous with the 'Classical' Sanskrit of Panini. Some scholars believe that a number of morphophonological and lexical features betray the fact that they are not direct continuations of Ṛgvedic Sanskrit, the main base of 'Classical' Sanskrit; rather they descend from dialects which, despite many similarities, were different from Ṛgvedic. MIA languages, though individually distinct, share features of phonology and morphology which characterize them as parallel descendants of Old Indo-Aryan. Various sound changes are typical of the MIA phonology:
- The vocalic liquids 'ṛ' and 'ḷ' are replaced by 'a', 'i' or 'u';
- the diphthongs 'ai' and 'au' are monophthongized to 'e' and 'o';
- long vowels before two or more consonants are shortened;
- the three sibilants of OIA are reduced to one, either 'ś' or 's';
- the often complex consonant clusters of OIA are reduced to more readily pronounceable forms, either by assimilation or by splitting;
- single intervocalic stops are progressively weakened;
- dentals are palatalized by a following '-y-';
- all final consonants except '-ṃ' are dropped unless they are retained in 'sandhi' junctions.
The most conspicuous features of the morphological system of these languages are: loss of the dual; thematicization of consonantal stems; merger of the f. 'i-/u-' and 'ī-/ū-' in one 'ī-/ū-' inflexion, elimination of the dative, whose functions are taken over by the genitive, simultaneous use of different case-endings in one paradigm; employment of 'mahyaṃ' and 'tubhyaṃ' as genitives and 'me' and 'te' as instrumentals; gradual disappearance of the middle voice; coexistence of historical and new verbal forms based on the present stem; and use of active endings for the passive. In the vocabulary, the MIA languages are mostly dependent on Old Indo-Aryan, with addition of a few so-called 'deśī' words of (often) uncertain origin.
There are many remarkable analogies between Pali and Ardhamagadhi (Half Magadhi), an old form of Magadhi preserved in ancient Jain texts. Ardhamagadhi differs from the eastern Prakrit of Ashokan inscriptions on similar points as Pali. For example, Ardhamagadhi too does not change r into l, and in the noun inflexion it shows the ending -o instead of the eastern Prakritic -e at least in many metrical places. This similarity is not accidental, since Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism, preached in the same area (Magadha) as Gautama Buddha.
Dhammapada verse 103:
Yo sahassaṃ sahassena, saṅgāme mānuse jine;
Ekañca jeyyamattānaṃ, sa ve saṅgāmajuttamo.
Greater in battle than the man who would conquer a thousand-thousand men,
is he who would conquer just one — himself.
Jain Samana sutta 125:
Jo sahassam sahassanam, samgame dujjae jine
Egam jinejja appanam, esa se paramo jao.
One may conquer thousands and thousands of enemies in an invincible battle;
but the supreme victory consists in conquest over one's self.
Dhammapada verse 70:
Māse māse kusaggena, bālo bhuñjeyya bhojanaṃ;
Na so saṅkhātadhammānaṃ, kalaṃ agghati soḷasiṃ.
Month after month the fool might eat only a tip-of-grass measure of food,
but he wouldn't be worth one sixteenth of those who've fathomed the Dhamma.
Jain Uttaradhyana (9.44):
Mase mase tu jo balo kusaggenam tu bhunjae
Na so sukkha adhammasa kalam agghai solasim.
- "The most archaic Old Indo-Aryan is found in Hindu sacred texts called the Vedas, which date to approximately 1500 BCE". Encyclopedia Britannica - Indo-Aryan languages. General characteristics.
- "If in "Sanskrit" we include the Vedic language and all dialects of the Old Indian period, then it is true to say that all the Prakrits are derived from Sanskrit. If on the other hand " Sanskrit " is used more strictly of the Panini-Patanjali language or "Classical Sanskrit," then it is untrue to say that any Prakrit is derived from Sanskrit, except that S'auraseni, the Midland Prakrit, is derived from the Old Indian dialect". Introduction to Prakrit, by Alfred C Woolner. Baptist Mission Press 1917
- Oberlies, Thomas Pali: A Grammar of the Language of the Theravāda Tipiṭaka, Walter de Gruyter, 2001.